- Video: Steve Wynn Takes On Washington
- An Agorist Roadmap
- Obama Owes Americans the Truth About Afghanistan
- China May Switch to Currency Basket for Forex Rate
- No Wonder the Outlook for the Economy is “Unusually Uncertain” … The Fed is Killing It
Posted: 23 Jul 2010 04:35 PM PDT
Steve Wynn, a casino resort/real-estate developer who has been credited with spearheading the dramatic resurgence and expansion of the Las Vegas Strip, talks about the Fall of America.
Posted: 23 Jul 2010 11:33 AM PDT
So, you want to secede? Your differences with some government or other are irreconcilable, and you want a divorce, but you don’t know how? The usual methods are messy, and involve lawyers. You’ll spend a lot of money and time, years of draining effort, endure painful negotiations, and hope that at the end of it all, you’ve convinced enough of the right people to sign off on your wishes. You’ll have no idea if, when, and at what cost the final victory will come. You may even have to fight a war before it is all over.
Would you like an easier way? A way that puts you in control, that allows you to secede entirely on your own initiative? Do you want to start right now, from where you currently live, without the hassle of figuring out how to divide the house? Do you want to spend your time and money building a new life and a prosperous future instead of buying your ex’s lawyer’s next BMW? Do you want to separate in a way that deprives your ex, the state, of the resources it needs to keep hounding you?
Agorism may just be the answer you are looking for. Think of it as a DIY divorce, free from political and legal wrangling and compromises among competing factions, and without the risk of a power vacuum into which the next up and coming wannabe tyrantcan step. The resources you use remain yours, and build over time. They are not spent on flyers and events and donations, they are invested. They are invested in you.
What is a state, really? It’s a bunch of people, operating under a certain set of rules, perhaps with a shared culture and set of norms. It is a set of mechanisms for enforcing laws, regulating economic activity and money, maintaining geographical integrity, and collecting resources to do all of this via taxation. Some of these things are necessary to any kind of society, others are nothing more than means arbitrarily chosen by a state to try to create the first set of things. They are the wrong means.
The great insights of market anarchism are that rules can be enforced by individuals without centralized law, that markets can self-regulate economic activity and money, that taxes are just theft that allow the non-productive to live off the work of the productive, and that geographical integrity is only necessary to the flawed means chosen by states.
Agorism has a simple answer to freeing one’s self from those flawed means: Just stop. Don’t participate in top down legal enforcement, start enforcing the rules you need for your life from the bottom up, with your own resources. Don’t allow economic regulators to rule your life and your trade and your money, regulate them yourself via markets, relationships, and real money such as silver. Start paying for the things you need yourself, while refusing to pay for those things that others want. Free yourself from the bonds of geographical monopolies and declare that wherever you are, right here and right now, is your own country of one. Let a billion nations bloom.
OK, you didn’t really expect a free lunch, did you? It’s never that simple, except in principle. It takes work, sweat and toil, risk, and planning ahead to achieve the things you want, even those things you have a right to. It’s a process, not a single event. There are basically two processes, done in tandem, and that build upon each other. One is reducing those areas of your life that fall under the control of the state, and removing the remainder from state control. The other is moving those things into another realm, one in which you are in control, you make the decisions, and you reap the rewards. The first reduces the power the state has over you, and over others, by draining resources away from the state that would use them against you. The second builds a new life, the kind we were told as kids was possible in a “free” country where you could be anything you wanted to be. And it creates a society, and a culture, that will already be in place and moving forward on that happy day when states begin collapsing all around us.
Reducing your “lifestyle footprint” in the state controlled sphere frees up your time to act in the free domain. It makes you more agile, more flexible, better able to respond to both opportunities and threats. Are you in debt? Eliminate it, as soon as humanly possible. Debt is the greatest enslaver of mankind. Do you maintain a rich lifestyle dependent on a high income? Cut back as far as you can stand. You won’t have to give those things up for long, you are only reducing them on one side so you can build them up on the other. Is your job tying you down to a fixed schedule, W-4 or 1099 forms, bosses or clients who will never go along with your agorist goals? Re-orient your career to a freelance, or purely entrepreneurial form, or even a different field entirely.
At the same time, begin building yourself up on the free side of life. Learn to handle silver. Just buy a little every so often at first. Learn the pricing structure of bullion and “junk” US Silver coins. Learn how silver feels in your hand, and that satisfying llittle “tink” sound it makes when struck. This is the beginning of your agorist nest egg. Start learning new tradable skills, different than the ones you currently make your living with, to allow a greater range of options. Seek out like-minded people and opportunities to trade. Learn to explicitly assess your trust in them, and to communicate that trust to others in an objective way free of malice or gossip. The most basic infrastructure of agorism is relationships and trust. It is never too early to begin laying those foundations.
Consider your earliest interactions as practice, as opportunities to share in the learning of skills that will be needed as you move to a more and more agorist lifestyle. Make free, unhindered trades for the fun of it, and to learn the details and techniques that make such trade move more smoothly. Use this to build up a network of trusted associates, and maybe some not so trusted. Look for fellow travelers in your community, who may not care about agorism per se, but are willing to work outside the system. Learn to keep your data, communications, and plans secure through encryption, and to selectively reveal them to others based on trust. Learn to think of the pricing of goods and services in terms of silver or gold, rather than dollars.
Most agorists are currently operating in this stage zero of agorism. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, and there is a constant itching to get out there and do something. However, If you have debt, if you maintain a rich lifestyle, the demands these place on you will thwart your efforts to free yourself at every turn. If you don’t have a network of friends and trading partners, you’ll find your opportunities for agorist expansion limited. This is the stage for preparing the ground, laying foundations for future building. It’s a time of learning skills and techniques, of meeting new people who share the agorist vision. It is a time for learning to think and act in a new way, for getting used to ignoring the state and becoming comfortable with the risks and the opportunities that entails. It is a time for learning to think of creative, bottom-up market solutions instead of top-down coercive solutions.
As your abilities and options grow, you will begin to use these networks and skills to get real work done, to build income and capital. You will begin to need some kind of physical and/or formal abstract infrastructure to facilitate your activities. The main categories of infrastructure are in the areas of security, currency, trade, transportation, communication, dispute resolution, and land. Build what you need, as you need it, but don’t build any one area out fully in anticipation of future needs. Let them grow organically, holistically, and in sync with each other, to serve the needs you have at any given stage of your own agorist development. Co-opt existing infrastructure when you can, or when you need to until you can build your own. Also, remember that others will need this infrastructure as well, so there is entrepreneurial opportunity there.
Success will breed more success. Those on the political fence will begin to see greener pastures on our side, misery, fear, and want on the other. The slow trickle of resources being withdrawn from state control will become a stream, then a torrent, then an exodus. Government will become weak, then crippled, then entirely impotent. One day you’ll wake up and realize that the state has withered on the vine, that you have built a new society and a new culture free from its incessant interference in your economic and social life.
We are now approaching six centuries after the printing press freed information and inquiry from the control of the elites in state and church. The world has built societies that those elites could never have imagined. What could we build within a mere six decades of the dawn of the internet and its freeing of information and relationships from the bonds of mass and distance? Would we recognize it if we could see it today?
It won’t take six decades to start to see real results in an agorist life, if we start today. We can begin to see them almost immediately. We can do it, but we can’t do it for you. Each of us has to build that world for ourselves. We can cooperate in the effort, we can mutually benefit from voluntary trade, we can build on each other’s successes and innovations. But we have to build it, we cannot wait for others to build it for us. Those who do wait will find themselves excluded from it, until such a day as it is all around them and they are dragged kicking and screaming into it. It is inevitable, and necessary if the human race is to survive and to continue advancing, to continue prospering. But inevitable does not mean imminent. It won’t happen until somebody picks up the tools and starts the work. It can happen in our lifetimes if we make it happen, but it won’t happen until we do.
Posted: 23 Jul 2010 08:40 AM PDT
Goodbye fire-breathing Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and your Special Forces “Mafia,” who were supposed to crush Afghan resistance to western occupation.
McChrystal was fired after rude remarks he and his staff made about the White House were printed in the American magazine, Rolling Stone. President Barack Obama should have fired McChrystal when the loose-lipped general went public with demands that 40,000 more troops be sent to Afghanistan
McChrystal was the second US commander in a row in Afghanistan to be fired, an ominous sign that the war was going very badly. He will now likely enter the Republican ranks as a martyr and become a Fox TV critic of Barack Obama.
A more cerebral and political general, David Petraeus, quickly replaced McChrystal.
In Iraq, Gen. Petraeus managed to temporarily suppress resistance due to a mixture of deft bribery, good luck, and Iran’s orders to Iraq’s Shia Mahdi Army militia to temporarily end resistance. Washington hopes Petraeus will do the same in Afghanistan, though the two countries are very different.
Last week, the usually cautious Petraeus vowed from Kabul to “win” the Afghan War, which has cost the US nearly $300 billion to date and 1,000 dead Americans (figures for Afghan dead are carefully guarded). The problem: no one can define what winning really means.
Afghanistan has become America’s longest-running conflict.
The escalating war now costs US taxpayers $17 billion monthly. President Obama’s Afghan “surge” of 30,000 more troops will add another $30 billion. Each time the US reinforces, Afghan resistance grows stronger. The Soviets ran into the same problem in the 1980’s.
The Afghan and Iraq wars – total cost to date $1 trillion – are being waged on borrowed money when the US is drowning in $13.1 trillion in debt. History shows that more empires have been brought down by waging ruinously expensive wars on borrowed money than by foreign invasion. Look, for good example, at the swift collapse of the British Empire after 1945.
Today, America has become addicted to debt and war.
The US Congress, which alone can declare and fund war, ducked responsibility and shamefully allowed Presidents Bush and Obama to usurp the power to make war.
Polls show a majority of Americans now oppose the imperial misadventure in Afghanistan. Yet most politicians, save a courageous few, fear opposing the war lest they be accused of “betraying American soldiers.” Americans are so steeped in militaristic propaganda and jingoism that questioning the gargantuan defense budget and foreign wars can be politically suicidal.
Even so, dissent is breaking into the open.
Last week, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele let the cat out of the bag, admitting the Afghan War was not winnable. Steele also went on to absurdly claim that Obama had initiated the war in Afghanistan, ignoring George W. Bush’s role in plunging the US into this morass.
I recall Bush’s mistake vividly, because right after 9/11, I wrote an op-ed column for the Los Angeles Times newspaper in which I warned that military action against al-Qaida be swift and limited, and that US forces should get out of Afghanistan ASAP before they got sucked into a horribly confusing and likely endless conflict.
Not surprisingly, I was deluged by hate mail from legions of sofa samurais and armchair patriots who wanted to fight to the last professional American soldier in Afghanistan.
Back to Steele. Republicans, who seem to cherish war and torture, erupted in rage, all but accusing Steele of high treason. Many of Steele’s most hawkish Republican critics had, like George Bush and Dick Cheney, dodged real military service during the Vietnam War.
Republicans (I used to be one) blasted McChrystal’s sensible policy of trying to lessen Afghan civilian casualties from US bombing and shelling. There is growing anti-western fury in Afghanistan and Pakistan over mounting civilian casualties that have become a primary recruiting tool for Taliban and its allies.
By clamoring for more aggressive attacks that endanger Afghan civilians and strengthen Taliban, and by advocating torture of detainees, Republicans again sadly demonstrate they have become the party of America’s dim and ignorant.
President Obama claimed he was expanding the Afghan War to fight al-Qaida. Yet the Pentagon estimates there are no more than a handful of al-Qaida small-fry left in Afghanistan.
So why is the US in Afghanistan?
Obama owes Americans the truth.
After nine years of war, the immense military might of the US, its dragooned NATO allies, armies of mercenaries and hundreds of millions in bribes have been unable to defeat resistance to western occupation or create a popular, legitimate government in Kabul.
Drug production, which was halted when Taliban was in power, has reached new heights. The US now rules the world’s leading drug exporter of heroine. Americans leading allies in Afghanistan are also kingpins of the heroin trade.
As the United States fêted its independence from a foreign oppressor on 4 July, its professional soldiers were using every sort of weapon in Afghanistan, from heavy bombers to tanks, armored vehicles, strike fighters, helicopter and AC-130 gunships, fleets of killer drones, heavy artillery, cluster bombs and an arsenal of high-tech gear.
In spite of this might, bands of outnumbered Pashtun tribesmen and farmers, armed only with small arms, determination, and limitless courage have fought the West’s war machine to a standstill and now have it on the strategic defensive.
This brutal David v. Goliath conflict brings no honor upon the Western powers waging it. They are widely seen abroad as pursuing yet another pitiless colonial war for resource domination and strategic geography against a small, backward people
Interestingly, the Americans and their allies accused Taliban of “terrorism” and “cowardice.” In my view, as an old soldier and war correspondent, using heavy bombers to attack tribal levies or employing gunships and drones against tribal compounds is cowardly. To Afghans, honorable warriors fight man to man in the field.
It reminds me of the ditty by the Victorian writer Hilaire Belloc morally justifying mowing down natives during the British Empire’s colonial wars because “we have the Maxim guns, and they have not.”
Most Afghans yearn for peace after 30 years of war. But efforts by the Karzai government, Taliban, and Pakistan to forge a peace are being thwarted by Washington, some of its NATO allies, Afghanistan’s Communists, and now the Indian-dominated Tajik Northern Alliance.
India is waging an undeclared struggle to wrest Afghanistan away from Pakistani influence, using the Northern Alliance, a small army of intelligence agents, and $1 billion in bribes to date. Meanwhile, rebellion seethes in Indian-held Kashmir.
It’s a huge and growing mess. Simplistic thinking in Washington does not begin to understand the complexity or subplots in this lethal farrago.
The heretical Mr. Steele was speaking truth when he said this ugly, pointless war is unwinnable. But Washington’s imperial impulses continue. Too many political careers in the US, Canada and Europe hang on this war.
So, too, does the fate of the obsolete NATO alliance that may well meet its Waterloo in the hills of Afghanistan.
No wonder Afghanistan is known as the graveyard of empires.
Posted: 23 Jul 2010 08:21 AM PDT
LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) — A top Chinese central bank official suggested switching away from the U.S. dollar as a benchmark for the yuan’s foreign-exchange rate, switching instead to a basket of currencies, according to remarks published Thursday.
In comments posted to the People’s Bank of China Web site, the central bank’s Deputy Gov. Hu Xiaolian said using a basket of currencies from the nation’s top trading partners would allow the Chinese yuan to better reflect trading fundamentals.
“Compared with pegging to a single currency, the exchange-rate regime with reference to a basket of currencies will help adjust exports and imports, current account, and balance of payment in a more effective manner,” she said.
China’s central bank currently sets a “central parity rate” against the U.S. dollar each day, with that day’s trading range confined to 0.5% above or below that level.
But Hu said focusing on the dollar-yuan rate ignored China’s bigger trade picture.
“A floating exchange rate has impact on total imports and exports of an economy,” she said. “Therefore, the floating cannot be aimed to adjust [only the] bilateral trade balance, and it is not advisable to just look at the [dollar-yuan] exchange rate.” See Hu’s full comments in English on the People’s Bank of China Web site.
Posted: 22 Jul 2010 08:31 PM PDT
From Washington’s Blog
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke testified today that the outlook for the economy is “unusually uncertain”.
That’s not surprising.
Nothing has changed since I made the following points last December.
High-Level Fed Officials Slam Bernanke
Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn conceded that the government’s actions “will reduce [companies’] incentive to be careful in the future.” In other words, he’s admitting that the government’s actions will encourage financial companies to make even riskier gambles in the future.
Kansas City Fed President and veteran Fed official Thomas Hoenig said:
The current head of the Philadelphia fed bank, Charles Plosser, disagrees with Bernanke’s strategy of the endless printing-press and ever-increasing fed balance sheet:
The former head of the Fed’s Open Market Operations says the bailout might make things worse. Specifically, the former head of the Fed’s open market operation – the key Fed agency which has been loaning hundreds of billions of dollars to Wall Street companies and banks – was quoted in Bloomberg as saying:
And William Poole, who recently left his post as president of the St. Louis Fed, is essentially calling Bernanke a communist:
But the strongest criticism may be from the former Vice President of Dallas Federal Reserve, who said that the failure of the government to provide more information about the bailout could signal corruption. As ABC writes:
Of course, former Fed chairman Paul Volcker has also strongly criticized current Fed policies.
Global Agencies Slam Bernanke
The Bank of International Settlements (BIS) – called “the central banks’ central bank” – has slammed the Fed for blowing bubbles and then “using gimmicks and palliatives” which “will only make things worse”.
As the Telegraph wrote in June 2007:
A year later, in June 2008, the Telegraph wrote:
Indeed, BIS slammed the Fed and other central banks for blowing the bubble, failing to regulate the shadow banking system, and then using gimmicks which will only make things worse. As the 2008 Telegraph article notes:
In other words, BIS slammed the easy credit policy of the Fed and other central banks, and the failure to regulate the shadow banking system.
More dramatically, BIS slammed “the use of gimmicks and palliatives”, and said that anything other than (1) letting asset prices fall to their true market value, (2) increasing savings rates, and (3) forcing companies to write off bad debts “will only make things worse”.
But Bernanke and the other central bankers (as well as Treasury and the Council of Economic Advisors and Barney Frank and Chris Dodd and the others in control of American and British and French and Japanese and German and virtually every other country’s economic policy) ignored BIS’ advice in 2007 and 2008, and they are still ignoring it today.
Instead, they are doing everything they can to (2) prop up asset prices by trying to blow a new bubble by giving banks trillions, (2) re-write accounting and reporting rules to let the big banks and other giants keep bad debts on their books (or in sivs or other “second sets of books”) and to hide the fact that they are bad debts, and (3) encourage consumers to spend spend spend!
“The world’s most prestigious financial body”, “the ultimate bank of central bankers” has condemned Bernanke and all of the other G-8 central banks, and stripped bare their false claims that the crash wasn’t their fault or that they are now doing the right thing to turn the economy around.
As Spiegel wrote in July of this year:
The head of the World Bank also says:
Economists Slam Bernanke
Stephen Roach (former chief economist for Morgan Stanley, and now director of Morgan Stanley Asia) is one of the most influential and respected American economists. Roach told Charlie Rose recently that we have had terrible Federal Reserve policy for the past 12 years under Greenspan and Bernanke, that they concocted hair-brained theories (for example, that we should let the boom and bust cycle occur, but then “clean up the mess” once things fall apart), and that we really need to reform the Fed.
Specifically, here’s the must-read portion of the interview:
Leading economist Anna Schwartz, co-author of the leading book on the Great Depression with Milton Friedman, told the Wall Street journal that the Fed’s entire strategy in dealing with the financial crisis is wrong. Specifically, the Fed is treating it as a liquidity problem, when it is really an insolvency crisis.
Moreover, prominent Wall Street economist Henry Kaufman says that the Federal Reserve is primarily to blame for the financial crisis:
Economist Marc Faber says that central bankers are money printers who create bubbles, and that the system would be much better now if the Fed hadn’t intervened. Specifically, Faber says that – if the Fed hadn’t intervened – the system would be cleaned out, the system would be healthier because debt load and burden on taxpayers would be reduced.
Economist Jane D’Arista has shown that the Fed has failed miserably at its main task: providing a “counter-cyclical” influence (that is, taking the punch bowl away before the party gets too wild).
As PhD economist Steve Keen has pointed out, the Fed (along with Treasury) has also given money to the wrong people to kick-start the economy.
The Federal Reserve is mandated by law to maximize employment. The relevant statute states:
However, PhD economist Dean Baker says:
The Fed could have stemmed the unemployment crisis by demanding that banks lend more as a condition to the various government assistance programs, but Mr. Bernanke failed to do so.
Ryan Grim argues that the Fed might have broken the law by letting unemployment rise in order to keep inflation low:
In fact, the unemployment situation is getting worse, and many leading economists say that – under Mr. Bernanke’s leadership – America is suffering a permanent destruction of jobs.
For example, JPMorgan Chase’s Chief Economist Bruce Kasman told Bloomberg:
The chief economists for Wells Fargo Securities, John Silvia, says:
And former Merrill Lynch chief economist David Rosenberg writes:
And see this.
The Fed says that we should reduce leverage, but is doing everything in its power to increase leverage.
Specifically, the New York Federal published a report in July entitled “The Shadow Banking System: Implications for Financial Regulation”.
One of the main conclusions of the report is that leverage undermines financial stability:
And as a former economist at the New York Fed, Richard Alford, wrote recently:
In fact, every independent economist has said that too much leverage was one of the main causes of the current economic crisis.
Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco President Janet Yellen said recently that it’s “far from clear” whether the Fed should use interest rates to stem a surge in financial leverage, and urged further research into the issue.”Higher rates than called for based on purely macroeconomic conditions may help forestall a potentially damaging buildup of leverage and an asset-price boom”.
And on September 24th, Congressman Keith Ellison wrote a letter to Mr. Bernanke and Geithner stating:
On November 13th, Mr. Bernanke responded to Ellison (I received a copy of the letter from a Congressional source):
In reality, the Fed has been one the biggest enablers for increased leverage. As anyone who has looked at Mr. Bernanke and Geithner’s actions will tell you, many of the government’s programs are aimed at trying to re-start securitization and the “shadow banking system”, and to prop up asset prices for highly-leveraged financial products.
Indeed, Mr. Bernanke said in February:
And he said it again in September:
Has the Fed Manipulated any Markets?
There are allegations that the Fed has manipulated the markets.
Trillions in Unnecessary Interest to the American People
Many people – including former analyst for the U.S. Treasury Richard Cook – argue that credit is too important a function to be left to the private banks. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka told Congress recently:
Bloomberg News columnist Matthew Lynn writes:
Michael Moore recommends that the American people demand:
As Moore notes, the state of North Dakota already has such a bank, and – because of that – North Dakota is just about the only state which is not running a huge deficit.
PhD economist and candidate for Florida governor Farid Khavari wants to create a Bank of the State of Florida, to create credit without burdening the state and its citizens with high interest charges by private banks. See this for details.
If the power to create credit were taken away from the Federal Reserve system and its private banks and given back to the government (as the Constitution envisioned), then American taxpayers would save hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars in unnecessary interest charges in paying off the national debt, as the government would not have to pay interest to finance its debt (sovereign nations such as the U.S. and England have the power to create credit and money; see this, this, this, and this).
Failure to Disclose Who Received Bailout Money